Hubert John Clifford (31 May 1904 – 4 September 1959) was an Australian-born British composer, conductor and musical director for films.[1] A native of Bairnsdale in rural Victoria, he studied chemistry before taking up music at the Melbourne Conservatorium, under Fritz Hart.[2] He began making a name for himself in the late 1920s as a conductor, particular for his work with the Victorian Opera Company.[3]

Following the advice of Hart (who himself had been a pupil of Charles Villiers Stanford) Clifford sailed for Britain in May 1930 to continue his studies at the Royal College of Music.[4] There he was taught by C H Kitson and Vaughan Williams. In the mid-1930s he turned to teaching. While music master at the Beckenham County School for Boys in Kent he won a William Cobbett prize of £20 for composing an original Suite for School Orchestra.[5] This became A Kentish Suite.[6] A text book, The School Orchestra: A Comprehensive Manual for Conductors, was published in 1939.[7]

He joined the BBC in 1940, and was Empire Music Supervisor from 1941-1944, with frequent conducting duties for the BBC's overseas broadcast service.[3] A photograph exists of Clifford with his friend and fellow-countryman, the composer and radio producer John Gough, and the British conductor Sir Henry Wood, inspecting the ruins of the Queen's Hall, London soon after it had been destroyed by German bombing on 10 May 1941.[8][9] After leaving the BBC he began teaching at the Royal Academy of Music.[4]

From 1944 until 1950 Clifford was Musical Director for Alexander Korda at London Film Productions, where (like his contemporaries in similar positions Muir Mathieson and Ernest Irving) he encouraged established classical composers to write for film, adapting and conducting their scores to fit the soundtrack. Notable commissions included Anna Karenina (score by Constant Lambert), The Winslow Boy, The Fallen Idol (both scores by William Alwyn) and The Happiest Days of Your Life (score by Mischa Spoliansky). Clifford also composed original scores of his own.[3] During a second two-year stint at the BBC from 1952 Clifford became Head of Light Music.[10]

His concert music is mostly orchestral and ranges from light overtures and suites to the wartime Symphony 1940. There is also a String Quartet from 1935. Many of his works have been recorded recently.[11]

During the 1950s Clifford's address was 'Belmore', Queen's Road, Cowes, Isle of Wight.[12] He died at the age of 55 in Singapore, where he was examining for the Associated Board.[10]

Selected concert works

Selected filmography


  1. ^ "Hubert Clifford". BFI. Archived from the original on 8 February 2019.
  2. ^ Leach, Gerald. British Composer Profiles (3rd Edition), British Music Society (2012), p 58-9
  3. ^ a b c Foreman, Lewis. Notes to Chandos CD 9597 (1999)
  4. ^ a b Foreman, Lewis. Notes to Chandos CD 10019 (2003)
  5. ^ Musical Times, June 1936, p 541
  6. ^ Radio Times Issue 717, 27 June 1937, p 59
  7. ^ National Library of Australia catalogue entry
  8. ^ Music and the Holocaust
  9. ^ Foreman, Lewis, ed. (2011). The John Ireland Companion. Boydell Press. p. 103. ISBN 978-1-84383-686-5. Retrieved 18 May 2016.
  10. ^ a b Obituary, Musical Times, October 1959, p 546
  11. ^ Dutton CDLX7338 (2017), reviewed at MusicWeb International
  12. ^ Proceedings of the Royal Musical Association (1957-1958)', p 99